The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Monday, January 17, 2011

American OO in 1936, part II: Andresen, Winther, the NYSME Show, and Setting Standards

Turning to the February, 1936 issue of The Model Railroader we find two photos of an addition to the Mohawk Valley layout of Oscar Andresen. This layout had been featured in some depth in the May, 1935 issue, as related in this prior article in this series. This 1936 update was on “a new corner just completed” on the layout. The main body of the article offers these details.
In both pictures the M. U. unit can be seen which furnishes passenger service between Echo Notch and Rock Haven. This belongs to the Echo Line, another unit of the system, and is the only means of passenger service between the points named. This unit runs at speeds of about 60 to 70 m. p. h., maintaining a schedule of 52.2 m. p. h. average from terminal to terminal.
The Mohawk Valley System is a OO gauge line, with exceptionally detailed cars made by a photo-chemical process similar to photo-engraving. The scenery is a clever combination of painted background and actual buildings in the foreground.
Especially in the first photo the retouching done by Andresen to the photo is pretty visible, especially the track on the left. In the second photo (click on it for a closer view) we have a last look at other equipment already seen, in particular the steeple cab electric freight motor. I say a last look because, so far as I can tell, these are the last photos published of his early layout.

Another major early name in American OO is Howard Winther and we hear from him again in the same February issue but not specifically in relation to OO. His article is titled “Two-Rail System Locomotives” and it has to do with insulating drivers and arranging for current collection. In short, “The easiest way of insulating the wheels is to us a Bakelite bushing around the axle, similar to the method described for car wheels” but he also presents how they can also be insulated at the rim. The article addresses drivers for O and OO gauges, with no mention of HO. As with the Andresen article this would appear to be the last published article by Howard Winther but in both cases I know that their names will turn up from time to time in later issues.

The other very interesting article for me in this issue is the nearly full page report on the NYSME show by Robert LeMassena. LeMassena went on to write quite a number of articles for Trains magazine but early on he was an OO gauger and he reported that
The 1936 edition of the New York Society of Model Engineers Exhibition was a huge success, to your correspondent’s way of thinking. The lure of model railroading and models of boats and engines was sufficient to insure capacity crowds every day of the two weeks duration of the show.
Instead of “standing room only” the sign read “elbow room only”. There were 16 commercial exhibitors, and from the looks of things business was definitely good.
As to the other attractions, “The center of attraction was of course the Union Connecting RR., the club layout in O gauge.” But there was also an OO gauge line which seems to have fallen on hard times. "The OO gauge Little Island RR. was not running and looked as if it had been abandoned. There was quite a bit of OO gauge stock on display in the cases." After descriptions of O and larger scale models we get to OO.
OO gauge was represented by a Pennsy P-5 and GG-1, a N. Y. C. J-1, and Erie S-1, a good number of Pullmans, and quite a number of freight cars. HO gauge wasn’t even in the picture. The Erie OO S-1 was the best steam locomotive in the little line and the GG-1 was a slick model of the real electric.
“HO gauge wasn’t even in the picture.” There is a timing to this statement in relation to the New York location of the show and the launches of the Scale-Craft and Lionel OO lines that is probably significant. Also note the Erie S-1; it should be by Howard Winther, as noted in this earlier article. I will come back to this model in part III of the present 1936 series.

Among the manufacturers displaying was Nason Railways, who had a “C. & O. 4-6-2” on display, a model they never produced. LeMassena concluded after noting that Maerklin had a display of “HO gauge tinplate” that “From all aspects it looks like a big year for model railroaders and especially for OO and HO gauge.”

In The Model Craftsman in April we have a very different report on the same NYSME show. Under the odd title “Ho-Hum, The Show’s Over” the report begins,
Ho-Hum, say we all, but not from boredom. No sir, it is that nice tired feeling one experiences after a good, big meal. Not that we had anything thing to do with the success of the model show of the New York Society of Model Engineers, but we did have a good time and we enjoyed the fruits of its season. We enjoyed inspecting more amateur-built models than we have ever seen under one roof before. And we had the pleasure of meeting old and new friends from all over America; and some from Canada.
The illustration with the article includes of caricatures of various NYSME personalities, this one being their Chairman and OO pioneer Fred Grimke, who was “handicapped by a broken ankle.” Speaking of OO, the prize winners for OO (they called it 00 in the article—MR used OO) were a Hudson locomotive by Carl Groh, a Pullman by J. H. Manning, and a Algoma Valley caboose by Edward Hornsbury [sic].

Actually the name was misspelled; the caboose was by Edward B. Hansbury, Jr. It was featured later in an article in the November, 1937 issue of The Model Craftsman from where this photo is drawn. The car is made mainly of wood and Bristol board, the sides being scribed “with a slightly blunted point.” The article gives quite a few details including such items as the steps were “cut from a Flat Fifty cigarette tin.” While the article emphasizes the intricate detail, the car itself seems to me at least by any later standards pretty lightly built. The roof is “very heavy cardboard” so all in all unless the car was treated carefully and kept in a dry place it should not have survived to today. The trucks are Nason trucks and it is nicely lettered by hand. Hansbury wrote a series of similar articles which I will return to from time to time in this series.

Finally, at the end of the Model Craftsman report on the NYSME show there is a note about manufacturers meeting to talk about standards. They report that “Tentative standards were adopted but final decision was waived until comparisons could be made with their manufacturing designs.” Among the manufacturers in the conference were Hugh R. Nason and Frank Waldhorst of Nason Railways.

When we return to this series we will take a better look at the Winther Erie 2-8-4.

Continue to Part III

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